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“The Stench Of Death”: No White House For You, Rand Paul

All happy campaigns are alike, but each unhappy campaign is unhappy in its own way. Those unique experiences of campaign failure provide some of the best entertainment of the long and arduous journey, and the pain is compounded by the observed scientific reality that a political corpse is capable of continuing to trudge forward well after its viability has expired. We begin our study of failure with Rand Paul.

Many failed campaigns are doomed attempts to rise above obscurity. Paul actually began his in a blaze of grandeur. Time put him on its cover and called him “The Most Interesting Man in Politics.” Such disparate pundits as the Washington Post’s Chris Cilizza, NBC’s Chuck Todd, National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar, The Atlantic’s Peter Beinart, and former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele tabbed Paul as not merely a possible nominee but the early front-runner. Paul seemed to combine two opposing traits: He inflamed the passions of tea-party activists, but also had a plausible-sounding blueprint for expanding his party’s general election appeal.

It has not worked out. Paul finds himself languishing in every metric of campaign success: polls, fund-raising, insider support, media attention. Two pre-postmortems today convey the stench of death that clings to Paul’s once-buoyant presidential hopes.

Alex Isenstadt has the most comprehensive autopsy of the things that have gone wrong for Rand Paul 2016. His campaign manager resents his chief strategist. Paul, incredibly, turned down a chance to attend a retreat with the Koch Brothers, who are kind of a big deal in the Republican Party. Staff morale is abysmal. The candidate hates fund-raising. Donald Trump has overshadowed him. Paul has “peppered aides with demands for more time off from campaigning, and once chose to go on a spring-break jaunt rather than woo a powerful donor.” And the campaign has retained the services of an utterly terrifying figure:

The senator was mingling with the crowd while John Baeza, a 280-pound retired NYPD detective and Paul family loyalist, stood behind him and provided security. [Campaign manager Chip] Englander barged over, convinced that the ex-cop was getting in the way of supporters eager to snap pictures with the senator.

“What the fuck, Baeza?” Englander said, grabbing his shoulder. “Why are you always getting in our fucking shot?”

“Don’t ever put your hands on me again,” the bodyguard fired back.

David Weigel and Ben Terris report the campaign’s explanations for its lack of success, which Paul and his minions gamely present as a shrewd long-term plan. Is it bad that Paul has fallen out of the public debate? No, no: “they insist there is minimal downside to being out of the media glare six months before the Iowa caucuses.” Paul, they report, has skipped two Citizens United “freedom summits” and the RedState Gathering. But that’s okay, Paul says, because, “The message of his state supporters is the message from the campaign: Anyone doing more than Paul is probably phoning it in at his real job.” If there’s one thing voters will reward, it’s a sterling record of Senatorial vote-attendance.

Paul is presenting his failure to attract attention as a reflection not of his love for spring break but rather a principled aversion to campaign high jinks. The candidate recently offered, with a touch of pathos, that he would not set himself on fire to compete with Donald Trump — but he’s not above cheeseball antics like setting the tax code on fire.

Perhaps Paul’s problem is that he started off setting things on fire, and, since his election in 2010, has spent his half-decade in office tamping down the flames to make himself acceptable to the party Establishment. Paul’s highest priority has been rendering himself acceptable to the Republican elite, by trimming his positions on issues like Israel and defense spending. Instead of bringing together activists and the Establishment, he has failed to reassure the latter, and bored the former. Paul has no principled aversion to facilitating the influence of the very rich over the political system. He’s just lazy and bad at it.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, July 29, 2015

July 30, 2015 Posted by | Establishment Republicans, GOP Presidential Candidates, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Rand 2015 Runs From Rand 2007 On Iran”: Changed His Tune To Match The Rest Of The Republican Field

In 2007, Rand Paul gave his first interview to Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist radio host and founder of Infowars.com.

Paul was helping his father, then-Congressman Ron Paul, campaign for the Republican presidential nomination and, Jones said, the entirety of his audience helped to make up the elder Paul’s base of fervent supporters.

Jones was struck by the younger Paul’s similarity to his father. “You know, talking to you, you sound so much like your dad,” Jones said. “This is great! We have, like, a Ron Paul clone!”

When Jones noted that the elder Paul was the only anti-war candidate, Rand replied, “I tell people in speeches, I say you know, we’re against the Iraq war, we have been since the beginning, but we’re also against the Iran war—you know, the one that hasn’t started yet. You know, the thing is I think people want to paint my father into some corner, but if you look at it, intellectually, look at the evidence that Iran is not a threat.”

As evidence of this, he said, you needn’t look further than the fact that “Iran cannot even refine their own gasoline.”

And further, Paul said, “even our own intelligence community consensus opinion now is that they’re not a threat. My dad says, they don’t have an air force! They don’t have a navy! You know, it’s ridiculous to think that they’re a threat to our national security. It’s not even that viable to say they’re a threat to Israel. Most people say Israel has 100 nuclear weapons.”

Eight years later, Paul’s beliefs are very different.

In response to the agreement reached Tuesday between Iran, the United States, the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany to diminish Iran’s nuclear program, Paul, now the junior Senator from Kentucky and candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, released a statement outlining his opposition.

“The proposed agreement with Iran is unacceptable for the following reasons:

1) sanctions relief precedes evidence of compliance

2) Iran is left with significant nuclear capacity

3) it lifts the ban on selling advanced weapons to Iran

I will, therefore, vote against the agreement. While I continue to believe negotiations are preferable to war, I would prefer to keep the interim agreement in place instead of accepting a bad deal.”

Asked how Paul’s position had shifted so dramatically since he was campaigning for his father, Doug Stafford, his senior campaign adviser, said, “Foreign policy should reflect events and events change. Senator Paul has always thought Iran getting a nuclear weapon was a bad idea and dangerous. But over the last eight years, as Iran has made progress in their nuclear enrichment program, it’s become more of a threat. Not allowing your opinions to reflect changing threats would be foolish.”

But it’s just frankly not true, as the Alex Jones interview demonstrates.

What is true is that the Iran deal places Paul in an impossible bind. Paul’s positions are usually so nuanced that they escape criticism of flip-flopping, but his shift on Iran is unusually clear—even if it was gradual.

Whether compromise is a wise strategy for Paul in the primary is uncertain. Paul is currently polling at 6.6 percent—behind Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee. Paul is not going to vault back into the top tier by siphoning off votes from more establishment candidates, whose supporters will never buy him as one of their own. And he won’t mobilize his libertarian base by taking them for granted.

In April, reporter David Weigel, outlined in detail Paul’s transformation for Bloomberg Politics. In 2011, while in the Senate, Paul was still vocally opposed to war, telling reporter Zaid Jilani he wanted to “influence” Iran instead. In 2012, while again campaigning for his father, he reiterated their anti-war position while clarifying that Ron Paul “doesn’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons…But should they get nuclear weapons, he thinks that there are some choices.” A few weeks later, Paul explained to CNN that when it came to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, “I did finally come down to the conclusion that doing something was better than doing nothing.”

By 2013, Paul was saying that “the most pressing issue of the day” was how to contend with Iran’s nuclear program, and said that although he still did not want war, if he were in the White House while a deal collapsed, “I would say all options are on the table, and that would include military.”

Back in March, Paul was faced with a choice: sign the open letter penned by his Senate colleague, Tom Cotton, which Cotton explicitly said was designed to halt negotiations, or be the only presidential contender in the Senate to not sign it, and risk losing support in the fallout.

Despite the fact that Paul had maintained—and continues to maintain—that he favors negotiations, he compromised and opted for the first choice, contorting himself uncomfortably in his effort to explain his decision and irking some of the longtime libertarian supporters he inherited from his father in the process.

He has pursued a similar strategy with the deal.

The Atlantic’s David Frum made what on its face felt like a reckless prediction on Tuesday: “The Rand Paul Candidacy for the Republican Nomination Is Over.” Frum’s case was that throughout the course of his short Senate career, Paul has been able to carve out space for himself within his party by mostly focusing on the issue of domestic surveillance, which comfortably placed him in opposition to the hawks he bemoans and to President Obama. The deal presented for Paul a no-win: Were he to support the deal, however, Frum argued, he would “find himself isolated with the old Ron Paul constituency,” but were he to oppose it, he would vanish amid a sea of similar voices in the primary field.

The best explanation for Paul’s new position may come from Paul himself.

In an interview with The Today Show’s Savannah Guthrie in April, the same day two attack ads were released tying him to Obama on the issue, Paul said, “2007 was a long time ago and events do change over long periods of time. We’re talking about a time when I wasn’t running for office, when I was helping someone else run for office.”

So when the facts change—be they the facts of the issue at hand or the facts of Paul’s personal political objectives—Paul changes his mind.

 

By: Olivia Nuzzi, The Daily Beast, July 15, 20116

July 19, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Rand Paul | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Moral Idiot”: Rand Paul Compared Taxation To Slavery And Betrayed The Emptiness Of His Political Philosophy

Rand Paul brought some libertarian philosophy into the Republican presidential primary this week, in the form of the old “taxation is slavery” bumper sticker. He even indexed it to a handy percentage scale! Andrew Kaczynski has the tape: “I’m for paying some taxes. But if we tax you at 100 percent then you’ve got zero percent liberty. If we tax you at 50 percent you are half-slave, half-free.”

Paul is probably getting his argument from Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia, which famously argued: “Taxation of earnings from labor is on a par with forced labor.” (Note that not even he went so far as to say taxation was literally identical to slavery.) His book was probably the most convincing case that can be made for this stone-cold form of libertarianism, where all “redistributive” policy is morally abhorrent and only the night watchman state is permissible.

Nevertheless, it’s still garbage. Nozick’s book constructs a detailed procedural account of justice, arguing that redistributive taxation is theft because it is a coerced transfer. He was a smart guy, and it’s very hard to get one’s hooks into his argument. The weakness, as with all extremist accounts of property rights, is not with the logic but the premises — particularly when it comes to the very beginning of property.

Go back far enough in history, and there would have been no property of any kind. The moment somebody fences off a piece of land, it necessarily destroys the liberty of everyone else in the world, since they no longer have the right to access that land. Nozick admits this is the case, but still wants to set up initial property rights. So he embraces a concept that he calls the “Lockean proviso.”

This proviso allows appropriation of unowned things, so long as it does not worsen the situation of anyone else. And what about people last in line, so to speak, who can’t appropriate anything because everything is already taken? Well, they will benefit from the general prosperity brought on by market capitalism.

Note what kind of argument this is: It rests on the overall welfare-enhancing consequences of adopting Nozick’s ideas.

The whole point of the “taxation is slavery-ish” argument is that infringing liberty to increase general welfare is morally impermissible. Yet here is Nozick, leaning on a boon to general welfare to justify a violation of liberty so he can get property rights going. This is no different from taxing the rich to provide food stamps, or from the kind of single-payer health insurance system that socialist Bernie Sanders endorses.

The upshot is that the austere libertarianism implied by Paul’s statement is fundamentally unworkable. The horse stumbled right out of the gate, and has to be put down. Neither Milton Friedman nor Friedrich von Hayek went nearly so far. Even Nozick himself apparently abandoned it after a few years.

Let me also comment on Paul’s gruesome tin ear on display here.

What is slavery really? In the U.S. context — and given the reference to Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech, this is clearly what Paul was getting at — slavery was full property rights in human beings.

It was also incomprehensibly brutal. Owning a person presented a challenge to Southern capitalists, since slave labor has no monetary incentive to work. They solved this problem neatly, with daily violence. Set a steadily increasing daily work quota (pounds of cotton picked, typically), and if it was not achieved, make up the difference with an equal number of stripes with the whip.

In this way, Southern slaves were forced to increase their labor productivity by some 400 percent from 1800 to 1860, achieving a level that was not matched until the development of the mechanical cotton picker. Southern slavery thus robbed both the body and the mind, using systematic torture to force slaves into inventing and spreading techniques of extreme manual dexterity (picking cotton by hand is very difficult).

So if Rand Paul really believes that 1 percent taxation is exactly equal to 1 percent slavery, why doesn’t he sound like an abolitionist? Why not seize one of the federal armories in an attempt to start an all-out war against a monstrous injustice? Indeed, by this measure there would be more slavery today (about 27 percent of GDP taxed) than in in 1860 (1.4 percent taxed, 12.6 percent of the population enslaved).

Only a moral idiot would think to make such an equivalence.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, July 9, 2015

July 14, 2015 Posted by | Libertarians, Rand Paul, Slavery | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Self-Avowed Expert On ‘The Negro'”: Rand Paul Meets With Rogue Rancher Cliven Bundy

Rand Paul met privately with Cliven Bundy on Monday, the Nevada rancher and anti-government activist told POLITICO.

The encounter came after Bundy attended an event for the Kentucky senator’s presidential campaign at the Eureka Casino in Mesquite, Nevada. When the larger group dispersed, Bundy said, he was escorted by Paul’s aides to a back room where he and the Republican 2016 contender spoke for approximately 45 minutes. (“There were no scheduled meetings at Senator Paul’s stop in Mesquite. He spoke to many people who came to this public event, none for 45 minutes and none planned,” Paul spokesman Sergio Gor said.)

The Nevada rancher said that he had expected only to have an opportunity to shake hands with Paul and make small-talk. He was surprised when campaign aides found a private room and allowed Bundy, his wife and son to speak with the candidate for the better part of an hour.

According to Bundy, the two mainly discussed federal land oversight and states’ rights, in addition to education policy — a theme Paul brought up in his speech.

“I don’t think he really understood how land rights really work in the western United States,” Bundy said. “I was happy to be able to sort of teach him.”

According to the Associated Press, Paul told the audience during the main event, “I think almost all land use issues and animal issues, endangered species issues, ought to be handled at the state level.”

“I think that the government shouldn’t interfere with state decisions, so if a state decides to have medical marijuana or something like that, it should be respected as a state decision,” Paul reportedly added.

Bundy said that in their private meeting, Paul brought up the work of the American Lands Council, which raises money from groups like the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity to wrestle land from the federal government and return it to the states via negotiations, legislation and litigation.

“I disagree with that philosophy,” Bundy said of the ALC’s legalistic approach. “My stand is we are already a sovereign state. The federal government doesn’t need to turn this land back to us. It’s already state land.”

“I don’t want to sell this land to private ownership, because I believe I already have stewardship.” He added, “I educated Rand on that point,” and said that the candidate seemed sympathetic to his point of view.

“I don’t claim ownership,” Bundy said. “I claim rights.”

Bundy first made national headlines in the spring of 2014, when the federal government temporarily closed a large swathe of U.S. government-owned land in Clarke County, Nevada, to capture and impound Bundy’s cattle as a penalty for more than $1 million in unpaid grazing fees. Bundy refused to federal authority on the land where his family had lived for more than 120 years, but federal courts repeatedly sided with the Bureau of Land Management.

Shortly after the BLM closed the land, hundreds of armed militia members — including members of far-right groups like the Oath Keepers and the White Mountain Militia — descended on the land outside of Mesquite, Nevada. After a weeklong fight and a twenty-minute standoff where federal agents and protesters pointed guns at one another, the BLM ultimately backed down and returned Bundy’s cattle.

Though the government agency has said that it will continue to work through the courts to exact money owed by Bundy, he told POLITICO that no federal vehicle has returned to the land for more than a year.

“The federal government is off my ranch and off this area of Clark County and they shouldn’t come back,” Bundy said.

After Bundy’s standoff, he briefly became a hero to far-right conservatives, bolstered by coverage on Fox News and praise by prominent Tea Party politicians like Paul and Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.).

But his star quickly plummeted after he made inflammatory comments about African Americans being better off under slavery.

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” Bundy told supporters shortly after the standoff, according to video footage captured by an onlooker. He recounted a time he drove past public-housing in Las Vegas “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom.”

After those comments went public, Paul walked back his support and issued a statement saying Bundy’s “remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him.”

Bundy then apologized for the comments, saying at a press conference, “I’m probably one of the most non-racist people in America.”

“I hope I didn’t offend anybody. If I did, I ask for your forgiveness,” he added. “But I meant what I said. It comes from the heart.”

As for Bundy, he said he has not yet made up his mind about who he will support in 2016. He said that he’s focused on which national politicians are most keen to return power to the states and local communities and said that, in their private meeting, Paul seemed keen to do so.

But Democrats, even before word of the private meeting surfaced, attacked Paul for what was first reported as a chance encounter. The Democratic National Committee sent an email to supporters arguing that Paul isn’t as sensitive to African-American issues as he says.

Michael Tyler, the group’s director of African-American Media, wrote, “Remember Rand Paul preaching of broadening the Republican Party’s tent to include communities they typically ignore? Remember Rand Paul claiming he was the perfect candidate to spearhead this outreach? Go ahead and throw that idea out the window.”

“Rand Paul spent his day in Nevada kissing the ring of Cliven Bundy,” Tyler added. “The Cliven Bundy who is a self-avowed expert on ‘the negro.’”

 

By: Adam B. Lerner, Politico, June 30, 2015

July 1, 2015 Posted by | Cliven Bundy, GOP Presidential Candidates, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Preserving Their Dominance”: McKinney Pool Party Cop’s Vicious Hatred; This Is The Face Of White Rage

Why are libertarians so overwhelmingly white and male? This is a question that Jeet Heer of The New Republic explored last Friday, after a new CNN poll found that presidential hopeful Rand Paul, who happens to be the favorite among libertarians, is very competitive in the primaries amongst male voters, but almost completely rejected by females. This is a problem that has long haunted conservatism, but it is even more drastic for ultra-right wing libertarianism.

In a 2014 Pew poll, it was found that about one in ten Americans describe themselves as libertarian, and men were more than twice as likely to be libertarians. In a 2013 Pew poll that Heer states in his article, it was found about two-thirds (68 percent) of American’s who identify as libertarians are men, and 94 percent are non-hispanic whites. Compare this to “steadfast conservatives,” who were found to be 59 percent male and 87 percent white, or “business conservatives,” found to be 62 percent male and 85 percent white, according to another survey done by Pew. Clearly, the entire conservative movement is dominated by white males, but libertarians are the most male-dominated.

Obviously this is a major problem for anyone who is hoping for libertarianism to take off in American politics. So why are libertarians mostly white guys? Heer points out a few different possibilities that some libertarian writers have offered. One of them being that libertarianism has attracted many male-dominated subcultures, like computer programming (think Silicon Valley), gaming, mens-rights activists, and organized humanism/Atheism, and another, argued by Katherine Mangu-Ward, that libertarianism has long been a fringe movement, and fringe movements tend to be dominated by men.

Okay, so libertarianism attracts nerdy white males, but surely these are not the only ones making up the dedicated crowd? While looking at the larger conservative movement, it becomes a bit more clear that the hostility towards government and collective movements in general tends to attract white males who want to preserve their dominance in a society where they are quickly becoming minorities.

When my first book, a novel for young adults, was published a decade later, readers often remarked on its graduation-night scene, which involved a party, a racial slur, broken glass, a slashed face, and the protagonist ending up in the hospital–indeed a discordant scene in a novel that was focused largely on the internal narrative of a quiet, nerdy Asian American girl.

James Baldwin once wrote that first novels are always autobiographical because the author has so many things to get off her chest. In my novel, the police are called, the protagonist’s injuries are so severe and unequivocal, redress is available by pressing charges against her attacker, a white classmate. However, the protagonist ends up deciding not to press charges, a twist for which readers express surprise, frustration, and dismay. But looking back at this book that I started writing back when I wasn’t that much older than those kids at the pool party, I see that in transforming this event that actually happened to me to fiction, the inner violence became external, with ugly scars, but with an emotional escape hatch:  the protagonist had a choice to press charges or not. Not the choice I would have made, but Ellen, my protagonist, had a choice of how to deal with her attacker.

I think the frustration and heartbreak I felt that graduation night had to do with feeling that this was somehow my problem and my problem alone. The Texas teens will have to deal with the aftermath of experiencing violence at the hands of a so-called authority figure, yet–judging from what I see on social media–among many otherwise sensible white acquaintances, there seems to be less concern for the avoidable trauma these kids experienced than the pursuit of the idea that the black kids had to be doing something wrong.  And no one wants to question why this narrative exists. Why a cop arriving on a scene asks no questions, openly separates out the black kids and acts like they are all criminals, no matter how polite they are, no matter if they comply, or, perhaps, more sensibly, try to get away. The irony being that he may have arrested everyone except the one person who may have committed an actionable crime, the white woman who slapped the teen who called her on her racism.

Race, race, race, it’s all about race to you, people complain. But I want to complain back: why is this something we have to bear alone? For every person who’s going to excoriate me for not mentioning, say, that there were black kids at the pool party who were indeed from outside Craig Ranch ergo invalidating my entire thesis, this is actually a fundamental misunderstanding and blindness to how omnipresent racism has become–and being a person of color and told I’m overreacting is itself a manifestation of racism. It’s not enough for white people to say, “I don’t use the ‘N’ word, therefore I’m not racist”–this is a self-rationalizing trope that willfully ignores, as poet Claudia Rankine has said, of how so many of our daily interactions are polluted by racism, whose toxic effects, like with pollution of our air and water, last for years and years–maybe a lifetime. And sometimes leads to death.

 

By: Marie Myung-Ok Lee, Salon, June 9, 2015

June 12, 2015 Posted by | Libertarians, Rand Paul, White Men | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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